Bubble Breakdown: Gophers likely to be the last team in or first team out

Jack Satzinger

At long last, the wait is nearly over. The Gophers will soon find out if they'll be dancing for the first time in five years.

Minnesota hasn't played a game in ten days since falling to No. 16 Nebraska in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament, but hopes to see its name in the NCAA Tournament field tonight at 6 P.M. CT. The bracket will be unveiled on ESPN, with eight bubble teams vying for one of the tournament's four final spots.

Let's take a look at those eight teams' resumes using factors the selection committee takes into account: RPI, strength of schedule (SOS), wins against ranked opponents and performance near the end of the season.

RPI: 57
SOS: 18
Last five games: 2-3
Analysis: The Sooners didn't finish the season on a particularly high note, but used a strong schedule to beef up their resume. Oklahoma beat a trio of ranked squads over the course of the season: Gonzaga, Iowa State and Oklahoma State. 
Prediction: In

Florida State 
RPI: 38
SOS: 26
Last five games: 3-2
Analysis: Florida State has a great RPI, but failed to beat a ranked opponent in 2013-14. However, they topped Michigan State (now ranked No. 20) in December, which might as well be considered a signature win. That same Michigan State team beat Minnesota by a combined 39 points in two games. Florida State also topped fellow ACC bubble team Florida earlier this season, which could be the deciding factor in choosing one team over the other. 
Prediction: In 

RPI: 64
SOS: 50
Last five games: 2-3
Analysis: Florida has the worst RPI of all bubble teams, but beat Kentucky twice earlier this year. The Wildcats are ranked No. 10 in the most recent AP poll. Still, Florida's whole body of work isn't as impressive as other teams' and the Gators haven't taken care of business down the stretch.
Prediction: Out

RPI: 44
SOS: 16
Last five games: 1-4
Analysis: Vanderbilt has the best strength of schedule of all bubble teams and beat Tennessee — now ranked No. 3 in the nation. Wins over other ranked opponents include Georgia, Louisiana State and Texas A&M. All of those victories came before Feb. 10. Since then, the Commodores have lost seven of their last eight games. However, Vanderbilt is too talented to keep out despite its late season issues.
Prediction: In

RPI: 46
SOS: 22
Last five games: 3-2
Analysis: The Gophers have a solid RPI and one of the toughest schedules, but didn't capitalize in games against top competition. They failed to beat a ranked opponent in five tries, highlighting the lack of a signaure win almost every other bubble team possesses. While Minnesota didn't beat any ranked teams, it did top tournament-projected squads Chattanooga and North Dakota. Ultimately, the last bid may come down to either the Gophers or South Florida. Minnesota comes from a better conference overall and has more impressive numbers at a glance. The SEC, ACC and Big 12 all have more than five teams projected in the field. The Big Ten should, too. That's enough to give Minnesota the slightest of edges.
Prediction: In

South Florida
RPI: 58
SOS: 37
Last five games: 4-1
Analysis: South Florida's RPI isn't stellar, but they are playing well at the end of the season when it counts. The Bulls won six straight games before losing to juggernaut Lousiville in the American Athletic Conference Tournament. Their win streak featured a win over No. 24 Rutgers, but South Florida comes from a top-heavy conference with mediocre competition in the middle and bottom. 
Prediction: Out

South Dakota State
RPI: 51
SOS: 90
Last five games: 4-1
Analysis: South Dakota State has a pretty weak schedule overall, but managed to beat the same Penn State team that topped Minnesota by 30 in January. The Jackrabbits have won 13 of their last 15, but none of those games came against high-level opponents. Oftentimes mid-major teams need to win their conference tournament in order to secure an NCAA Tournament berth. South Dakota State was upset in the Summit League Tournament by double digits. 
Prediction: Out

Bowling Green
RPI: 31
SOS: 146
Last five games: 4-1
Analysis: Bowling Green won more than a dozen straight games against cupcake opponents to close out the regular season, but was upset in its conference tournament. No, you're not seeing double. The Falcons and Jackrabbits took advantage of fluff schedules in the regular season, but failed to come through when it mattered most in the conference tournament. 
Prediction: Out

ESPN's Charlie Creme has Minnesota as the first team out of the tournament and Florida in the field. His bracket can be seen here